Spanish River - Forks to the Elbow

CanadaOntarioNorth Channel
Submitter & Author Information
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Additional Route Information
45 km
3 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
590 m
Longest Portage: 
230 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Access to The Forks by train from Sudbury or Cartier
(The "Bud Car")
Start at The Forks of the East and West Branches
South on the Spanish River
P 210 m R around rapid or CBR
P 150 m R around rapid or CBR
South on Spanish River
South through Spanish Lake
Camp night one at the south end of Spanish Lake
South on Spanish River
P 230 m R around Zig-Zag Rapids or CBR
South on Spanish River to finish at The Elbow
Road access from the Elbow to Fox Lake Lodge or Highway 144

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Our group of 10 arrived at Fox Lake Lodge around 1800 hrs on 25 May 1998. The weather was partially cloudy with temperatures hovering around 23 degrees. Everyone was immediately overwhelmed by the serene tranquility of the lake and the surroundings of the lodge. I quickly handled all administrative details concerning our first evening and our transport to Cartier train station the next morning. After an enjoyable dinner we all called it an early night to be fresh and spry for our adventure awaiting us.

Day 1
We arrived at the train station at 0945 hrs and systematically arranged our gear and canoes for the pick-up. We anxiously awaited the arrival of the "Budcar" which arrived fashionably late at 1040 hrs (40 minutes late).

Space was tight due to a last minute booking by a group going to their cottage with a 14 ft fishing boat but after 25 min all was loaded and we were on our way. The trip was scenic and the weather was a carbon copy of the previous day. Our first view of the Spanish River revealed extremely low water conditions and we all wondered if we would be doing more walking than canoeing. 45 minutes later we arrived at the "Forks". Along with the cottagers we unloaded with no problems. A few steps to the southeast revealed a small path, which leads down to the riverbank. We were relieved to see that here the water levels were fairly high. Within 20 minutes we were on our way wondering what everyone else was doing at work.

After 30 minutes on the river we stopped for lunch on the island at the actual fork in the river. (GR 352093). We were back on the water by 1300 hrs and so far the bugs were not too bad. After 1 hour we came to the first marked portage (actually the only sign we ever saw) at GR 378064. The water was low enough here that a portage was not required. I decided to take a look at the portage for future trips and discovered a beautiful camp sight half way through the portage. Since our trip was only going to be 45 km over 3 days we decided to enjoy the rest of our first day at this camp site. I decided to spend an hour fly fishing while others read, walked or just relaxed. No luck (probably because of the warm water due to the low levels). Normally, I am told the trout are abundant in the Spanish.

Unfortunately due to a fire ban we were unable to enjoy a nice campfire. The bugs were still very manageable and disappeared around 2000 hrs when it became a little cooler. We all went to bed at 1000 hrs.

Day 2

Rise and shine at 0730 hrs to a crisp clear sunny morning. By 1000 hrs we hit the water. Water levels varied but we were always able to pick good routes through the rapids with minimal rock contact. An ABS canoe is definitely recommended for these types of water levels. At noon we found a nice sand bar an enjoyed a nice lunch with temperatures around 27 degrees. We stopped at the Pogamasing river junction just after lunch and viewed the chute apparently used by loggers for a long time. We noticed some cloud development just after lunch and realized we would soon be wet campers. Mother Nature was gentle bringing only 30 minutes of rain. Unfortunately it happened right when we were experiencing the lowest levels on the trip. (GR 419915). We pushed on for about an other 1.5 hrs (we missed 3 of the 4 site marked closely together on the MNR map) and ended up at a great spot below a high ridge (GR 436853). This one was not marked the map but was marked by a sign. We settled in and about 6 of our group did some rappelling and top roping just north of our site on the east shore. Although we had some rain we still did not take a chance building a fire even tough we were tempted. Still no fish.

Day 3
The day dawned with clear skies and still conditions. We packed up and were on our way by 0930 hrs. The winds started picking up and we soon started bucking a strong headwind, however the stronger currents at this part of the river helped us maintain a speed of around 5 km/hr. The river was quite shallow from here to Spanish Lake with lots of class I rapids (some bordering on class II). I`m sure with higher levels this would be a very challenging stretch of water. The campsite marked on the MNR map at GR 449800 is co-located with a cottage. Spanish Lake was pretty and due to heavy winds, very choppy. We planned to stay overnight at the campsite marked on the MNR map at GR 454668 but never did find it. The river has high banks from the Spanish River to the "Elbow". We ended up at the "Elbow" at 1400 Hrs. We surveyed the campsite here, a large open field, and decided we would rather head back to the lodge and spend our last night there.

Although the river level was low and a fire ban was in effect we all learned a great deal and enjoyed ourselves. The MNR map was not very helpful, however while we were at the lodge we found out that volunteers are signing the river in detail over the next few months and a new map should be published soon with greater detail. Vicki and Dave at Fox Lake Lodge were very helpful and provided an excellent service which I would recommend to anyone not sure on how to go about organizing a trip like this. I hope we can come back next year for another trip.

Heiko Partenheimer

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
41 P/4 Low Water Lake 41 I/13 Pogamasing 41 I/12 Cartier
Other Maps: 
Chrismar Adventure Series map - Spanish River


Post date: Sat, 01/01/2000 - 07:00


I just wanted to say that my whole life i grew up on the budcar with jimmy the conductor and Edgar the bagadge car man and I loved every single ride so far and hope for more to come so keep up the good work guys cause its means the world to some people to keep the budcar running
sicerely: Casey from POG
(sheahan station)

Post date: Sat, 01/01/2000 - 07:00


In Aug. 2002 my husband and I did this trip with 4 young children ages 9 to 13 and two black labs. We spent a glorious 9 days on the river. We started our trip at Sinker Creek on the west branch. You take the Bud car to Sinker Creek and begin your trip. I would highly recommend this trip to all with some white water experience. For an adventurous family it is a great trip. It is worthwhile to limit your daily length of paddling to about 10 km. max. We have three canoes, of which one is a kevlar canoe. I was able to run most of the rapids solo with a nine year old in the front( for weight). The sites are beautiful and the river has a wide variety of
different paddling features. I suggest that you purchase the Chrismar map of the Spanish River,
an excelent map. If anyone can suggest another river that equals
the Spanish I would like to hear from you. I will be posting our trip log
when I finish it. We hope to do another trip in the summer of 2003 and are already searching for a river.